Book Review – ‘Freakboy’ by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

A queer book in prose!

Freakboy Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Poetry, Y/A, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 448

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From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy’s razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

Freakboy’ kinda didn’t go anywhere – but that matches the aesthetic of some forms of poetry, or a story told in verse, they are about a moment, a feeling, not a story.

Some of the formatting of the pages was interesting. Like stanzas posing a question forming a question mark on the page. Or the shape of a bowling pin when the character is at the bowling alley.

I’m not a big poetry reader. I usually avoid it. But this kind of poetry was okay to read. Though I did stall at the beginning of the novel a number of times, and even stopped around the 80 page mark to read another 2 books before picking it back up again. I think it took a bit for my brain to kick into gear with this style of writing to follow the three different perspectives and grasp the narrative.

We don’t get much character development – it’s more of a snippet in time. We follow Brendan as he starts to explore his gender identity; Vanessa – the least interesting character – just struggling to hold on the Brendan as he pulls away; and Angel, a transgender female at the Youth Centre who reaches out to help Brendan… and has many flashbacks of her past. And that’s it. It doesn’t really go anywhere.

Freakboy Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This also reads as a book written by a cis gendered person. Like they are using it to educate other cis gendered people. Which is not a bad thing. It’s executed pretty well and I’m all for representation in literature. But there is a big difference when it comes to the soul and tone of the novel in relation to its authenticity. Own voices novel are much more nuanced, and the characters are about much more than just their gender identity. To further is argument the author mixes up gender identity with sexual identity, and uses the incorrect pronouns throughout given that it is told in past tense and should reflect the protagonist’s genuine gender expression. Big, obvious things like that would have been second nature to an own voices author and avoided in the narrative. But everything is a learning curve, and who knows it may be intentional to reach a larger cis gendered audience.

The prose does feel denser than regular contemporary fiction – as with most poetry – and rich with symbolism. ‘Freakboy’ may look like a long book on the outside, but this is poetry, there are less words to a page, more space to shape the stanzas on the blank surfaces, so it will feel like you’re flying through the novel if you’re not stopping to ponder and resonate with the words too often.

It’s a good book to read in that it is accessible. You don’t have to be a big lover of poetry to understand ‘Freakboy.’ It is simple in its themes and message. It represents a marginalized community beautifully. So while I have strong opinions about some of the content, ‘Freakboy’ is breaking through some walls and giving a voice to people who previously had little to no representation. I guess this is a tentative recommendation from me. I value the message, the representation, but don’t quite gel with the delivery.

Overall feeling: Torn between two worlds

Freakboy Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Freakboy Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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#BQ Freakboy Authors Note by Casey Carlisle

Starting on my first novel told completely in verse – it is so totally out of my comfort zone but am glad for the experience so far. This Author’s Note (from ‘Freakboy’) at the beginning grabbed me – with the current debates on glbtqia+ rights, transgender issues at the forefront and the concept of gender being deconstructed in a social setting (and clashing beliefs with religions,) I’m kinda interested to see where this book will go and what questions it will raise…

What was the last book that you read that challenged mainstream perception?

Book Review – ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity’ by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

A road trip of two teens facing their fears…

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 272

From Goodreads:

The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy named Jeremy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first, Jess has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just told them she wasn’t coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her. Chunk has always been there for Jess, and he’s been especially supportive of her transition, which has recently been jump-started with hormone therapy.

Along the way from California to Chicago, Jess and Chunk will visit roadside attractions, make a new friend or two, and learn a few things about themselves—and each other—that call their true feelings about their relationship into question. 

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I was looking forward to ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity,’ it promised interesting characters and a journey filled with crazy events. What I got was cute, cheesy, and sometimes a little frustrating.

I liked the narrative style – it was about people, and not the body issues they struggled with (Jess struggled with her gender and Chunk with his weight.) I liked how it illustrated how not everyone gets it. And how any one person is more than one thing and has faults of their own… how the sum total of many things makes us up as individuals.

I did find our protagonist Jess a bit selfish. How she was all about her transition. But I know people who have lived through that process, and it sums up their mental space for that period of time. They’ve been on this journey for so long it consumes them. Not to say they are bad people or narrow-minded. They are simply protecting themselves, anchoring to their core to allow growth once they’ve found that safe place within. But I would have like to have seen her step outside issues other than her gender expression. Nut her story is an important one, and I liked how she interacted with the outside world and started to test boundaries.

Chunk could have been a little more expressive and assertive. He was so compassionate, it felt crippling. I was praying to see him a little more confronting and add some tension to the story, force Jess to think with a bigger perspective. He just such a big adorable teddy bear.

Jess and Chunk were both likeable, and engaging to read, but I wanted more dimension and intensity. It would have lifted the tone from pleasant to impactful.

Young couple driving convertible at sunset

It was a great story illuminating issues trans people face, and showing representations of sexuality. It was also wonderful at depicting the fear and doubt that non-hetero-normative people live with for their entire lives. But the other side of this is that these issues weren’t really delivered in a realistic way other than a stream of thought. Jess was sheltered and detached from the community, and from taking part in all the activities of the road trip. I get that she was afraid and protecting herself, but not having the issues she faced connected to the reader in some real life experiences, or those of other characters, diminished the importance of these somewhat.

But this book is a marvellous tool in offering a starting point for dialogue about so many issues of the human condition, and how we treat each other.

I loved the nerdy and sci-fi references – nice touch and appealed to my inner geek. It was also great to read about diverse characters that had real world problems.

I’m ambivalent on the ending – while I enjoyed it, I think that there was more character growth and a lot more issues they needed to work out to reach that point. It felt rushed. Otherwise, wonderfully dramatic and managed to drag out all the feels..

Overall feeling: not too shabby.

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookquotes

BQ Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Casey Carlisle

Who doesn’t love a good road trip tale? A fun light read with a transgender protagonist, a bit of romance, and some poignant observations on social norms and identity. #diversity. I won’t say it blew me away, but I enjoy all the things that can go wrong when your driving across country with your best friend. A nostalgic read for me 😉